The Outhwaite Homes Estates, along with the Cedar Apartments and Lakeview Terrace, were the first three public housing projects to be completed in Cleveland. The three projects were also among the first in the nation to receive approval and funding from the federal government's newly created Public Works Administration in 1935.
Outhwaite's brick Art Deco buildings, grouped around grassy courtyards, originally contained 557 units. Expansion occurred only a few years after Outhwaite's 1937 opening as demand for public housing in Cleveland continued. The need for new housing was particularly great within the African American community, whose growing numbers were leading to overpopulation in the Cedar-Central neighborhood, the city's Black enclave. Initially, African Americans seeking public housing could only live at the Outhwaite Homes – in Cedar-Central – as officials sought to keep each housing project racially homogeneous.
In 1938, brothers Louis and Carl Stokes, who went on to noted political careers, moved to the Outhwaite Homes with their mother, Louise. Louis Stokes was a US Congressional Representative for nearly three decades and his brother Carl became the first African American mayor of Cleveland in 1967. Both brothers credited their time at Outhwaite with having a role in their success.